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What’s in an offer anyway?

July 2019

When you are selling your home, it is often the speed with which it will sell that is one of your top priorities. In other words, how long will it take to go from the point of being marked ‘For Sale’ to being marked as ‘Sold Subject To Contract’ (SSTC). It sounds logical enough, but in my opinion it’s back-to-front thinking.

This is because this first part is the easy bit and you do not need to be the best estate agent in the world to achieve it. In reality, it is the stage from SSTC through to exchange that your agent’s dogged time at the coalface really pays off. Without question, this second part is the most difficult and is actually what your commission fee is paying for – experience and motivation.

But what’s in an offer anyway and what should you keep in mind?

Many buyers leave you thinking that they are all cash buyers. There is a big difference between full cash funds in a nominated account and ‘cash’ coming in the form of a mortgage. As most agents do nowadays (as is required by law), they will need proof of cash or mortgage, along with the buyer’s proof of identity.

If a mortgage is being used, ensure you understand what percentage is being borrowed. If your buyer only needs a 25% loan, then the application is likely to sail through. If it is a 95% loan, then be slightly more wary. Some lenders insist on having a third-party solicitor acting on their behalf. Add this in to the mix of the buyer’s and seller’s solicitors and you could be looking at a very drawn out process. The key to any offer is to weigh up the reliability and security of it, versus the monetary amount. In the current market I would always suggest going with the lower risk option, as it is more likely to go the full distance.

I would also suggest having a loose timescale agreed upfront for exchange and completion, so that there are no misunderstandings and you have a date to aim for. Many people mistakenly believe the clock starts ticking towards exchange, when the memorandum of sale is dated. This is not the case and actually is when the draft contract pack is received by the purchaser’s solicitors.

Regarding completion, the average is around four weeks after exchange. However do bear in mind that you can make this date when it suits you, as long as both sides agree. Another useful tip which can be useful in some circumstances, is to agree a longstop completion date, with the caveat ‘if not earlier by prior mutual agreement’. This is the only way to have a flexible completion date. However once you reach the backstop date, you have to complete. You can make it earlier, but not later.

Many vendors instruct a solicitor when a deal is agreed, which again is a common misconception. You should actually instruct them at the same time as your estate agent. Ask them to open a file, sign off client identification, check for any title anomalies and start getting the draft contract pack ready. When you find a buyer, it means you are on the front foot and can command the situation.

Getting an offer and agreeing terms is exciting, however actually getting to exchange of contracts requires a whole different set of skills. By ensuring an offer is agreed on the right basis and that you have an experienced and motivated agent, then you are more likely to get to the point where the ‘Sold’ slip on the board outside your home actually means what it says.